Posts Tagged ‘Democrats And Immigration’

Mass Murder in Mexico Demands Greater Awakening in US

October 8, 2014

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Reading about Mexico reminds me of El Salvador. Older Salvadoran sensations —the smell of rotting flesh mixed with the sweet fragrance of almond trees, the sight of young faces burned into half skeletons that look like the masks our kids wear for Halloween, the unforgettably sad sound of a dead student’s mother screaming without ceasing—  insinuate themselves as I read other stories about the mass graves of Mexican students killed by their government. This news affects me differently from the nonstop reports about the more “sanitized” warfare of drone strikes against “terrorists.” One major difference: my stomach knots as I read the articles about this latest mass killing in Mexico, a country that barely had a military in the 1980′s, when those Salvadoran almond trees became the trees of the knowledge of good and evil.

The difference in reading experience mirrors the difference between our news and perceptions about Mexico and our news and perceptions about other Latin American countries. Even though no country is closer to us in terms of sharing both a border and a massive population of its nationals living here, mass murders by Mexico’s government are reported, read and treated far differently than real and alleged human rights violations in other countries in the hemisphere—all of which spells more terrible news for Mexico, and for many of us here.

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In Mexico, our failure to recognize the real dimensions the Mexican crisis means we’re blind to an equally disturbing fact: our government’s continued use of our tax dollars in the Drug War pay for the training, guns and bullets that slaughtered those students. This despite the fact that some of the same former Mexican presidents who received billions to fight that same Drug War now say that that war is a trillion dollar failure of titanic proportions. Less heard are the cries of the families of the students buried in the mass graves of Guerrero, who join Mexico’s more than 80,000 Drug War dead, thousands of whom were journalists, priests, human rights advocates and others whom like the students, were killed by government security forces we help fund. Viewed through a regional hemispheric lens, the children and young people migrating here from Mexico and Central America are walking, talking reminders of our utterly failed and extremely biased policies in the region.

Earlier this year, I traveled to Venezuela several times to cover the widely-reported conflicts there. I did so because I sensed something was not quite kosher about U.S. media reporting on students in Venezuela, who, instead of following the tradition of fighting U.S.-funded projects like those in Mexico, are actually the recipients of U.S. funding. After reading this week’s violence in Mexico, the journalist in me couldn’t  help but ask, “What would happen if police or other security forces of the Venezuelan government killed 43 students and buried them in a mass grave?” 

The journalist’s answer I came up with is informed by what we saw during last summer’s upheavals: high profile denunciations by global human rights organizations, interviews with Venezuelans in Miami and front page headlines with the word “Killings” as the operative verbs next to sentence subjects and objects like “Students” and “Maduro Government.”

On one September day just two weeks ago, an estimated 43 students are alleged to have been disappeared and killed by Mexican police linked to drug cartels. That is equal to the total number of people killed in Venezuela during the 2014 protests—at least half were allegedly killed by paramilitaries and students opposed to the Venezuelan government. All 43 in Venezuela were killed over the course of not one day, but 160 days or four months. Looking at the media coverage and the official responses from government and non-governmental institutions, one would think that Venezuela was Mexico or wartime El Salvador. Such a distorted understanding of regional realities among the citizenry of such a powerful country enables those perpetrating slaughter in Mexico to continue doing so.

Despite all this terrible news, I do think that the radical disproportion in both reporting and policymaking circles will soon face a major challenge: students themselves. In line with the Salvadoran and U.S. youth who altered U.S. policy in El Salvador and following the dynamic activism of students leading social movements around the world, the young people of Mexico are showing great courage before their country’s critical situation. With millions of DREAMers and other U.S. students and others engaged with Mexico through familial relationships, it’s only a matter of time before the same kind of activism that fought and exposed the two million deportations and other devastating immigration policies of the Obama Administration starts to inform Obama and the next U.S. president’s foreign policy in Mexico.

Such a combination —Mexican and U.S. youth joining forces to stop the madness— has the potential to change not just Mexico, but the United States, as we are witnessing with the decline and fall of traditional Republican and Democratic party immigration politics. Increasingly, Latinos are and will continue engaging far and beyond the ballot box, beyond the sterile, suffocating smell of the militarized border as the winds of the south awaken us with a deeper knowledge of the good and evil hidden in the smell of almond trees.

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Roberto Lovato is a writer and a Visiting Scholar at UC Berkeley’s Center for Latino Policy Research. You can follow Roberto on Twitter @robvato.

Al Ataque: Todos Contra ICE! (Attack: All Against ICE!)

May 19, 2008

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This just in from the Daily News (DN), one of the largest dailies in the U.S. DN Columinst Albor Ruiz’s article reminds us to put our attention where it belongs: on the biggest scandal in ICE’s history. As as he says,

“Shockingly, between January 2004 and November 2007, more detainees have perished while in custody of ICE than in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo combined.”

Just this should be enough to put the forces of the immigrant rights movement on moral and political alert lest they let this largest, most high visibility crisis ICE has faced since its inception pass without a response. But there is more, much more at stake: nothing less than the moral fabric of the entire country. Coming on the same continuum of detention and militarism as Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, the immigration detention scandal brings the U.S. government’s disrespect for human life within the borders of the country itself. In the words of Ruiz,

“What goes on inside immigration detention centers points to a moral crisis that threatens to shred the nation’s basic values.”

Viewed from this vantage point, It’s pretty clear that last week’s “biggest”, “largest” (according to ICE press releases) raid in Iowa was a diversionary tactic designed to take attention-and pressure- away from the political vulnerability ICE’s violence and neglect in detention centers have opened up, a vulnerability that must exploited if their impunity and corruption are to end. Raids before, during and after marches illustrate how very political ICE is-and acts.

The number of ICE scandal actions -vigils, videos, social networking sites, posts, op-eds, public educational events a, letters, protests and other direct action -will define how truly political-and effective- we are. Responses – and non-responses-to this crisis will tell us, the immigrant community and our powerful adversaries whether we really want to pull out of the defensive, reactive (as in only reacting to raids and other ICE initiatives) politic that we seem all-to-comfortable with.

The great danger right now is that we allow the Democrats and their allies to frame the ICE crisis in a reformist manner, as something simply requiring better management and health care. We must, to the best of our abilities make clear that the crisis is not solely nor primarily about the health conditions that need to be reformed; its about the policies and the institutionalized verbal, visual and physical violence against human beings who happen to be migrants, policies that need to be destroyed. The Democrats have done nothing to stem the tide of institutional intolerance and hate. Nothing. So, they should follow, not lead. Some other local national detention rights groups are planning press events, actions etc in coming weeks.

This crisis at ICE has given us what no violent raid or series of violent raids can give us;the crisis has given us the kind media coverage that started the ball rolling on detention scandals in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo: in-depth, front page reporting in the NYT, Washington Post and 60 minutes. The media did its part in this case. Democrats and other politicos will align along whatever vectors of political -and moral-pressure they are placed in. And ICE and its subcontractors have done their part with their corruption, unconstitutional practices and relentless violence.

So, ICE’s fate really is up to those of us in the fight for migrant rights now. Let us seize the moment.

Al Ataque: Todos Contra ICE! (Attack: All Against ICE!)

Still They March: Nationwide Rallies Highlight Failure of War on Immigrants

May 2, 2008

The battle for immigrant rights rages daily in the heart, mind and lanky 10 year-old frame of Chelsea resident and May Day marcher, Norma Canela. Norma’s mother Olivia illegally crossed the borders of Guatemala, Mexico and the U.S. almost eleven years ago from Honduras. Born shortly after her mom came to the U.S., Norma says attending one of the over 200 May Day marches for immigrant rights made her feel “good, like we could help people get their papers!”

Chanting, singing and marching alongside so many others in the Chelsea march, also provided the energetic 4th grader a counterbalance to the crush of loneliness (“I feel like nobody wants to help us”), fear (I’m scared they might take my mom”) and isolation (“Sometimes I feel alone”). If, it achieved nothing else, march organizers say, the May Day mobilizations gave Norma, Olivia and the 12 million undocumented immigrants and their families living in United States a dose of hope in the face of an escalating war on the undocumented.

Yelling “Alto a las redadas! Alto a las deportaciones!”(Stop the Raids! Stop the Deportations!) the tens of thousands of immigrants and their supporters marching throughout the country on May Day believe they took crucial steps for a movement trying to defend families like Norma’s from a multibillion dollar war being waged on immigrants. On May Day they hoped they helped align the movement’s agenda, animate its base and flex its power.

Relieved, yet still animated after organizing the largest (30,000 +) of the hundreds of May Day marches in towns and cities throughout the country, Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Executive Director of Voces de la Frontera in Wisconsin, a low-wage and immigrant workers center, said that the day’s primary objective had been accomplished. “Almost all immigrant rights groups are now on same page as far as opposing measures that criminalize immigrants and demanding legalization in the first 100 days of the next [President’s] administration” said Ortiz adding “I think across the board most groups are calling on Bush Administration put an immediate end to raids and deportation.”

Prior to today’s marches, the fissures and differences around strategy for immigration reform had split the movement. Some groups supported ‘tradeoffs’ -legalization for even heavier enforcement- like those contained in the now defunct McCain-Kennedy bill while other groups didn’t. May Day march organizers also found themselves on the defensive against what Ortiz calls ” a kind of low-intensity conflict” unleashed on immigrants shortly after the historic May Day marches of 2006: thousands of raids on homes and workplaces conducted by heavily-armed immigration agents, deployment of 6,000 national guard troops to the border, billions of dollars in government contracts to military-industrial companies like Halliburton, Blackwater and Boeing to build the infrastructure to surveill, trail and jail immigrants.

Against the backdrop of the intense escalation of attacks and the fear these attacks engendered after 2006, Ortiz and other organizers like Gladys Vega of the Chelsea Collaborative believe they also succeeded in injecting some “animo” into their movement. “On a daily basis, we have to deal with community members terrorized by raids, facing increased problems in the workplace because of the tighter (employment) regulations” said Vega adding “Here in Chelsea, a city that is 63% immigrant, 350, mostly Latino families had their houses foreclosed on and we can’t just sit by and watch.”

In response to what she considers the very predictable mainstream media stories focused on the decreased size of the May Day marches, Vega said, “When your community and you have to do so much and when there is so much repression against immigrants and their families, the real story is how so many people overcame their fear and marched in 200 cities.”

Now Ortiz is ready to pull out a defensive posture and launch an offensive. “Marching is one critical piece but not the only one” said Ortiz. “Most of us are also involved in the massive push for voter registration, citizenship drives and getting people to vote. May Day was also about sending a message to the Republicans and Democrats, about holding their feet to the fire.”

Norma and Olivia can’t cast a vote this election season. One is too young, the other doesn’t have the papers. But they are still involved in the electoral process. How? “I talk to our family and friends who can vote; I make phone calls, distribute flyers, attend events anything I can do I do it” said Olivia. For her part, future voter Norma, who sometimes joins her mother’s electoral activities, offers up some immigrant rights strategy of her own, “We’re going to march until they (the government/immigration authorities) get bored. Then we can all be safe.”